One Song/Three Versions – Black Hole Sun

Dedicated to Chris Cornell.

Soundgarden grew out of the whole early ’90’s “grunge” thing in Seattle that spawned Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Nirvana. A popular band, arguably they had no more celebrated song than “Black Hole Sun.” It’s worth quoting songwriter Chris Cornell’s take on it:

“It’s just sort of a surreal dreamscape, a weird, play-with-the-title kind of song. Lyrically it’s probably the closest to me just playing with words for words’ sake, of anything I’ve written. I guess it worked for a lot of people who heard it, but I have no idea how you’d begin to take that one literally.

It’s funny because hits are usually sort of congruent, sort of an identifiable lyric idea, and that song pretty much had none. The chorus lyric is kind of beautiful and easy to remember. Other than that, I sure didn’t have an understanding of it after I wrote it. I was just sucked in by the music and I was painting a picture with the lyrics. There was no real idea to get across.” 

Commenting upon how the song was misinterpreted as being positive, Cornell said, “No one seems to get this, but ‘Black Hole Sun’ is sad. But because the melody is really pretty, everyone thinks it’s almost chipper, which is ridiculous.”

Spotify link

In 2006, Peter Frampton did an all-instrumental album called Fingerprints. Guests on it included Mike McCready, Hank Marvin (seminal guitarist of the Shadows!), Warren Haynes, John Jorgenson, Bill Wyman, Chris Stainton, Matt Cameron and Charlie Watts.

Matt Cameron joined Soundgarden in 1986 and is Pearl Jam’s current drummer. Cameron, McCready and Frampton teamed up to do a version of “Black Hole.” I think this is worth hearing as Frampton is an excellent guitarist. That said, I’m not really nuts about the tone or the effect he’s using on the guitar in the beginning. Talk box? See what you think:

Spotify link

Kimberly Nichole made her name on Season 8 of the American singing competition, The Voice. Interestingly, she’s from Seattle and so maybe a Soundgarden fan? According to her website, she’s shared the stage with such artists as Slash, Living Colour, Alice Smith, Janelle Monae, Nona Hendryx  Aloe Blacc, Bilal, Joe Walsh, and Jon Bon Jovi.

They call her the Rock Ballerina because, well, she likes to wear tutus. So be it. Of her, Rolling Stone said she is, “a superhero hybrid of Aretha Franklin’s vocals with Bono’s stage presence.” I dig her version of “Black Hole Sun.” Here ’tis: (No Spotify, so I posted two YouTube versions hoping you can hear at least one of them.)

Source: Wikipedia

In my eyes, indisposed
In disguises no one knows
Hides the face, lies the snake
The sun in my disgrace
Boiling heat, summer stench
‘Neath the black the sky looks dead
Call my name through the cream
And I’ll hear you scream again

Black hole sun
Won’t you come
And wash away the rain
Black hole sun
Won’t you come
Won’t you come (won’t you come)

Stuttering, cold and damp
Steal the warm wind tired friend
Times are gone for honest men
And sometimes far too long for snakes
In my shoes, a walking sleep
And my youth I pray to keep
Heaven sent hell away
No one sings like you anymore

Black hole sun
Won’t you come
And wash away the rain
Black hole sun
Won’t you come
Won’t you come

Black hole sun
Won’t you come
And wash away the rain
Black hole sun
Won’t you come
Won’t you come (black hole sun, black hole sun)

Hang my head, drown my fear
Till you all just disappear

Black hole sun
Won’t you come
And wash away the rain
Black hole sun
Won’t you come
Won’t you come

Black hole sun
Won’t you come
And wash away the rain
Black hole sun
Won’t you come

Songwriters: Chris Cornell

Black Hole Sun lyrics © BMG Rights Management

 

43 thoughts on “One Song/Three Versions – Black Hole Sun

    1. Yeah, it really does. And a cryptic – if dark – enough set of lyrics to leave it subject to interpretation. As a fellow “man of a certain age,” you will find it amusing to know that both Paul Anka and Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme covered it. You gotta at least here Anka’s. It swings!

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      1. This is great!! Even better than Frampton’s! You’re right, the lyrics are vague enough that even a Paul Anka can cover it. I’m sort of afraid to hear Steve and Eydie’s interpretation, though.

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        1. Never thought I’d say this, but S&E do this song proud. I like it even more than Anka’s version. Lush and moody.

          I looked up the song on Wikipedia. Critic Jon Pareles compared certain stylistic qualities to the Beatles. Not sure I’d go that far, but I have high regard for Pareles. (“Christgau, you’re no Jon Pareles…!”)

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        2. That’s the style all those big band-era singers had. Reminds me of when Sinatra sang Harrison’s “Something” and he says “You stick around Jack and it might show.”

          As to the song’s meaning, somebody on YouTube has a lengthy dissertation on its being about Satanic worship. But I suggest processing the song with the knowledge that Cornell suffered from a lifetime of depression and committed suicide.

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        3. I think your second explanation of the lyric inspiration is probably more correct (sadly).

          Did you know that Sinatra always introduced “Something” as a “Lennon-McCartney song?” The story I heard was that his “people” were too afraid to point out his mistake!

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        4. Yes, I’ve heard that. And it was probably an assumption many people made as George had never written anything quite like that. My understanding is that Sinatra eventually found out and subsequently changed his patter on that. Sinatra called it the greatest love song of the past 50 years. (I’ve also heard 25 years.) But what’s the difference? What an honor from the Chairman of the Board!

          Liked by 1 person

  1. Ah poor Chris. A real pioneer of the movement really. Soundgarden had such an impact on so many of those bands that flowed out from Seattle at the time but really didn’t hit the same level of success as, say, Pearl Jam or Nirvana.
    That effect that Frampton’s using throws me off for the duration on that one but Kimberly Nichole’s version is nice.
    Still the original holds sway for me.

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    1. Maybe not but they sure had their fan base. As to Frampton, yeah I don’t know what he was thinking. Him and his talk box. I’ll go with the original too but as always, these One Version things are more about the creativity of other artists in approaching a song as opposed to ‘these are better.’ Often they’re not.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. What’s this ‘Brexit’ of which you speak, sir? Surely this is all a bad dream from which we will awaken and find out the likes of Farage and Trump were mere nightmare fodder

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    1. I really like this version – takes the song in a different direction, which has Jim says is the point of covers. Reminds me a bit of Tori Amos’s cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit

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        1. Yes! I was familiar with this “group” when they did Learning to Fly to try to get Foo Fighters to come to play – I guess there are different takes on this type of thing – I thought the Learning to Fly one was cool because you had all these people coming together to play the music they love. Of course now you see multiple examples but in general still think its kind of neat.

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  2. Man, the original is so ingrained in my head and ears that I really can’t hear much in the other versions. Nice enough, I guess… though the Frampton talk box guitar shenanigans is too distracting to take seriously.

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    1. Yeah, the real purpose of these One Version things is to show that there are choices to be made in how you treat a song. Which I’m sure you being in bands know all so well. Generally speaking, as you said, the original is the one. But sometimes an alternate outside-the-box treatment reshifts one’s thinking.

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  3. Listening to original on Spotify the behind the lyrics features quotes Cornell as saying he is not really sure what the lyrics are supposed to mean they just poured out of him. Knowing what we know now I agree they might reflect his mental health struggles. Surprisingly I also enjoyed the Steve and Edye version.

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    1. Odd isn’t it, having these old showbiz people sing rock tunes? Some of these folks have also done takes on Stone Temple Pilot’s ‘Plush.’ “When the dogs begin to smell her, Will she smell alone?” What do they make of that?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Right! One of life’s mysteries I guess. Can only think that a manager or someone thinks it will make them more relevant to sing an album of newer songs and the singers just sing what is in front of them. Would be funny to be in studio when they get to a line like you mentioned and they go – “You want me to sing what?” 🙂

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